For the past few days, Ellyn Small (SVP, home furnishings practice) and I have been taking part in the Seena Magowitz Golf Classic for Pancreatic Cancer Research in Boston. About 15 years ago, Roger Magowitz, an industry leader and former CEO of Mattress Discounters started the foundation. The battle cry was that pancreatic cancer was one of the most deadliest cancers and least funded. He had lost his mother to the disease as had other notables in the industry. The mattress industry really had no charity of choice, like the City of Hope or the Anti-Defamation League, which had aligned themselves with the broader home furnishings category.
The foundation has raised millions and now is a who’s who of industry leaders. More than 250 of them are in Boston this weekend.
So in addition to golf and networking, one of the highlights of the program is a gala dinner and auction. The auction raises several hundred thousand dollars offering luxury suites at Yankee Stadium, an exclusive Sonoma getaway and unique jewelry.
This year, something special happened. One of the items up for auction was a collection of old mattress ads that had been saved by Sam Chase, who died about 10 years ago from pancreatic cancer.
Sam was a personal friend and one of our first industry clients. He lived in West Caldwell and we first met up when he was a sales rep for what is now Classic Brands —still one of our clients. Sam was a sweet, kind and sensitive man. An engineer by training, he was probably one of the most overqualified sales reps in the industry. But he has a side job. Sam had been working with a mill in Georgia to create a new and very innovative line of mattress covers –very unique at the time, incorporating a different design and performance fabrics not yet seen by the industry. Called FabricTech, we represented the brand for a number of years and upon Sam’s death, helped his surviving business partner, Arnold Hershbain, find a new partner to help him grow the business. Today, it is one of the most successful brands in the business.
Sam had a passion for collecting –and old mattress ads was his focus. I remember him coming into the office with a new piece he had discovered when going through his files. In almost every meeting we had, he would show me something in his collection. When he passed, he willed the collection to Hershbain. At auction last night was 300 original newspaper and magazine ads from the 19th and 20th centuries –many over 100 years old. An amazing thing happened last night. While a lot of items at the auction when for $5,000, $10,000 and even $25,000 –the top money raiser was the $67,000 the president and ceo of Mattress Firm bid for the collection. Three or four top players in the industry competitively bid for the collection, which was encouraging. The collection will now be housed in the company’s corporate headquarters, which has a wing with industry memorabilia.
What a fitting tribute to Sam –and I believe to the values of our industry—that Sam’s passion would translate into the top money raiser last night to battle the same cancer that befell him. More importantly, it is fitting to the values of the people in our industry who would pay tribute in such a fitting way.